Skin Models

Content & Learning Objective

In vitro skin models are growing in importance in the cosmetics and pharmaceutical industries as an alternative to animal testing, and tests involving them have already been validated. In this course, you learn about the commercially available skin models, their intended uses, and their therapeutic applications. Since they are quite challenging to culture, we teach you the basic skills needed to develop a skin model in your own lab. You also learn how to use and assess it.

The theoretical part includes:

The structure, components and functions of human hair

  • Dermal and epithelial cells
  • Requirements a skin model must meet
  • Overview of skin models and production technologies
  • Materials, matrices and media
  • Application of epithelial cells
  • Culturing and using skin equivalents

The demonstration and practical parts comprise:

  • Defining a dermis equivalent
  • Seeding keratinocytes in special cell culture inserts
  • Handling of skin models
  • Airlifting an epidermal skin model

Target Group

Technical and scientific staff with good basic knowledge of and practical experience with cell culture and cell biology


Iris Martin trained as a biology lab technician at the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg, finishing in 1996, and then worked in the In Vitro Differentiation and Carcinogenesis department headed by Prof. N.E. Fusenig. Since 2003 she has been in the Genetics of Skin Carcinogenesis department under the direction of Prof. P. Boukamp, developing and optimizing three-dimensional models of human skin together with Dr. Hans-Jürgen Stark. She is also involved in studying wound healing, barrier formation and tumorigenesis processes.

Dr. Hans-Jürgen Stark studied biology at RWTH Aachen University, focusing on microbiology and protein chemistry. He then did his doctorate while working in the In Vitro Differentiation and Carcinogenesis department of the German Cancer Research Center in Heidelberg. As a postdoc, he focused on optimizing 3D skin models for studying epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. This work led to the establishment of skin equivalents based on authentic fibroblast matrices with potential for sustaining long-term cultures. Since joining the Genetics of Skin Carcinogenesis department there, he has been using these models to study the role of extracellular matrices in epidermal regeneration and stem cell attributes.

Recommended advanced courses

Spheroid Culture